Aphantasia and Memory

There’s a new article about aphantasia and memory over on Lynne Kelly’s site.

My conclusion: aphantasia is not an obstacle to memory training. It just means doing it slightly differently.


Very interesting article and even soothing to read, as I also recently realized I am in the category 5 that is aphantasic

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It’s grey mush for me, too.

Yet I do have visual dreams, sometimes very clearly, so my brain does have the ability to form images, unlike others with aphantasia I’ve heard of (Blake Ross and Penn Gillette).

I also have no problem with spatial rotation tasks, and I am able to mentally traverse a memory journey, which seems to involve some kind of “mind’s eye”, but I’m not really seeing anything.


Great and useful find! Thanks.

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Sorry if this is a stupid question — can a person with aphantasia look at a scene and then draw it from memory later? Does it mean that there is no mental impression of an image or just that the recall isn’t exactly visual?

Lynne Kelly said: When I first discovered that others are seeing vivid images, hearing sounds in their imagination and can even recreate tastes, I felt really ripped off.

I can’t really imagine how verbal and visual aphantasia combined functions. How does thought even occur?

I do not know whether I have aphantasia, but from the anecdotal standard of that image I see a grey mush hence will answer your question.

Actually I used to make pencil sketches. Portraits of people by making them sit in front of me as models. I also had drawn portraits from photographs. When I read and saw some mentions of people drawing faces from memory, in folk culture and drama, like someone sketched their loved one from memory, and crime branch artist drawing something just by description I used to wonder how they do that. I was never able to draw anything from memory. Now I know that is because I have no visual image which comes in front of me. Now I know I am different than many others, thanks to this forum and discussions on Aphantasia.

I have a mild obsession of collecting photos (faces and portraits) of loved ones friends and many people whom I know in my phone, like saving their DPs so I can see them again and again, now I wonder whether this habit has formed because I cannot remember their faces on my own, like many other may be doing and hence I formed this habit of collecting photos for reference.

I have no issue recalling a location, while in college (Civil Engineering) we used to draw isometric views and perspective sketches of buildings. I can imaging those 3D images of buildings in mind and can draw them without seeing them. I believe this spacial angle gives it a boost for recall and what I can draw is because of my spatial memory and not imagery.

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Thank you for this, Josh. I only just found this post, so apologies for taking so long to reply.

I can look at a scene and then draw it, but what I draw will only have the key features. There will be no detail and the accuracy will be appalling. I can only draw if I have some kind of reference to draw from. I have been taking art lessons so that I can explore the various mnemonic technologies that depend on art. But I have to work very hard at it, looking constantly at my source image. I am not coming. I am adapting, but I need sources for the elements of any illustration.

P.S. In 40 years of teaching, I ensured every class knew that there are no stupid questions. It was my mantra. Even when they tried asking the stupidest possible question, I could turn it into a useful reply. There are no stupid questions - especially when it is something that you want to know.


I can think. Everything I think is sort of in my own voice but with no sound. I also have images, but they are vague things up the back of my brain somehow - no colour, no definition. But I am capable of thinking. I cannot imagine what it is like to have images there all the time. I really wish we could get inside other people’s brains. This is all too hard!

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What a great idea. I am going to start doing this. It is so embarrassing when I see someone the day after I have talked to them at length and can’t work out who they are. I snob people in the street because I don’t realise that I know them. I do recognise people I know well - I don’t have complete lack of facial recognition.

I also did engineering, but electrical. I have little trouble with 3D drawings, nor with reconstructing circuits. I wonder if the difference is that I can use logic as well as what is in my mind, which I can’t do with faces and scenes.


Are you able to think in someone else’s voice? I find this very intuitive but if you can do this too then perhaps you are only cutting off the explicit visualization.
How is it when you are reading text?

My brain is very much entertaining. However on the extreme end of visualizing your heart rate actually does go up drastically if you visualize a situation where it should do so or even if you visualize too quickly. Similarly if you have a fear of heights you can experience the sensation just by visualizing an appropriate height.

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